The Nebraska Wildlife Federation's Adopt a Stream program is designed
to help school, youth, and community groups and individuals
adopt a portion of a local stream, assess and monitor the
aquatic health of their stream, and develop
stream cleanup and conservation projects that restore and improve fish and wildlife
habitat. The goal is simple: to help Nebraskans take an active role in
monitoring, conserving and appreciating streams in their area.
In an innovative partnership with Doane
College and Public Health Solutions, Nebraska Wildlife Federation has
developed and tested a series of online training videos that will
allow volunteers to learn online how to assess and monitor their local
stream. See the
training videos here, and help us make sure that No Stream is
Adopt a Stream workshops and
Stream Monitoring Kits provided by the Nebraska Wildlife Federation are
helping Nebraskans be good stewards of Nebraska's number one resource:
our streams and wetlands.
|Adopting A Stream or Wetland
From the smallest neighborhood creek or wetland to the state's largest rivers, Nebraska streams and wetlands support a variety of fish and wildlife. Volunteers all across Nebraska have adopted a stream segment in their neighborhood, and are monitoring and conserving their local stream. If you don't already have a stream on your land, you can adopt a local stream segment or wetland by looking for:
(1) a stream or wetland you can access legally. You must have landowner permission to enter and monitor your stream site. Public parks are a great place to access streams for monitoring, but remember you will need the agency's permission to carry out any conservation projects;
(2) a stream or wetland you can access safely. Smaller streams let participants get in and out of the stream safely, and give participants a chance to make a substantial change with smaller scale conservation projects. Participants monitoring larger rivers must exercise care, especially during high flow times. Generally, streams are fastest and deepest under bridges, so we suggest participants use other access points if possible.
| Safety first!! We recommend all Adopt A Stream participants obtain and wear flotation devices (life jackets) when carrying out Adopt A Stream activities, and always use the buddy system.
Once you have found a stream segment or wetland to adopt, you should write down a general description of the location (e.g., Cub Creek at the western edge of Homestead National Monument), and a GPS location if available, and register your stream site.
|Stream Assessment and Monitoring
| Training provided by the Federation teaches Adopt A Stream participants how they can assess and monitor the aquatic health of their local stream.
Water quality can be assessed by measuring key components of water chemistry: pH, temperature, turbidity (clarity), nitrogen, phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, and bacteria. Relatively inexpensive tests are available for many of these components, and the Nebraska Game & Parks Commission will loan out Hach water testing kits for participants. Pesticides can pollute a stream and destroy aquatic organisms, but are expensive to test for.
Benthic macro invertebrates -- the snails, dragonfly larvae, red worms, and other small critters that live in streams -- are a great way to assess and monitor stream health. While a flush of chemicals caused by a hard rain may be detectable in a stream for only a day or two, these critters live in the stream throughout the year and are a great indicator of overall stream health.
By identifying the number and variety of macro invertebrates in a stream, Stream Teams can 'read' the health of a stream. Since some (like mayfly nymphs and gilled snails) are very sensitive to pollution or poor water quality, but others (like leaches and pouch snails) can live in very degraded streams, knowing what macro invertebrates live in your stream can help you understand its health.
A key to understanding your stream or wetland is to monitor it regularly, so you can track changes in water quality throughout the year and from year to year. We recommend Adopt a Stream participants monitor their streams once a month if possible. Don't forget to enter your data on our on-line database, so others can see what your stream is like and compare data.
|In the Zone
| Stream and wetland health are largely the product of their 'riparian zone', the streamside areas throughout the watershed. These riparian zones, if well managed, can provide habitat for wildlife at the same time they provide protection for fish in the streams. Grass buffer strips along streams, grassed waterways in fields, and grass borders along the edges of crop fields will help filter pesticides and nutrients out of runoff, and capture soil before it muddies the stream.
Poorly managed riparian zones, where parking lots or buildings are built right next to a stream, streams have been straightened or channeled, or land is tilled or heavily grazed right to the edge of a stream, can result in heavy loads of sediment, pesticides, nutrients, oil and urban chemicals in the stream.
In residential and urban areas, residents can improve the health of neighborhood streams by reducing or eliminating their use of pesticides and fertilizers, and relying on more natural yard care methods. Communities can protect their streams through proper setbacks that protect stream corridors and provide green space.
Once a Stream Team has assessed a stream's health, it can use a watershed inventory to understand the causes of a stream's poor health, or the risks to a high quality stream.
| Stream Teams often start their conservation work with stream cleanup days. Pulling recyclables, tires, and trash out of a stream and riparian area can both improve the habitat and make the stream a better looking place. 'Snags' -- downed trees and branches -- provide habitat and food in the stream, and should usually be left unless they pose a safety hazard.
Invasive species and noxious weeds can be removed. Native grasses, forbs, shrubs and trees can be planted to improve a streamside area.
Where land management upstream has degraded a stream, Stream Teams can help restore their stream by educating neighbors in a positive way about the impacts of their streamside practices on stream health. The Federation can provide information on federal and state programs that provide incentives for landowners to install buffer strips and adopt other good practices.
Together, stream by stream, we can make Nebraska a better place for fish and wildlife!
|Protect Nebraska streams and wetlands! Join Adopt A Stream today!